Who owns the copyright of Monkey’s self-portrait?

If an unlimited number of monkeys use an unlimited number of typewriters for an unlimited long time, then at some point they must produce the complete works of Shakespeare. Another version of this note may be that if you wait long enough, a group of monkeys will appear to be the copyright holder of some photos. Or will they?


That’s what’s happened according to this article on SlashDot. After the Daily Mail published the pictures, TechDirt started a discussion about the copyright of the pictures, using the pictures on their own website —all of them, apparently in original size, thereby probably exceeding the fair use limit. Since the monkeys are said to be the copyright holders, I assume I can safely post this picture here, but to be sure, I’ll post just one small picture and stay within the limits of fair use.

On the other hand, monkeys are not supposed to have legal capacity and can’t own anything. Then again, if you make a product during time paid by your boss and if you don’t have a contract explicitly stating that you own your own work, chances are that your boss is the copyright holder. These monkeys have no contract, but they certainly have a boss. Moreover, the owner of a dog or horse usually takes full responsibility for all deeds of that animal, be it biting a hare to death or winning prizes. Taking this in consideration, one has to conclude that the owner of the monkey, the Indonesian government, is the copyright holder.

Whoever may be the copyright holder, the Indonesian government or the monkey, it is certainly not Caters News Agency LTD, which in this case has nothing to do with the photographs, except that their name is on one of the pictures. They issued a take-down notice to TechDirt, who started a discussion about this copyright subject, but they should only have asked for their name to be removed!

The Indonesian government probably doesn’t care about copyright in this particular case. The Anglo-Saxon judges will probably make a decision, which defies all logic in the eyes of continental Europeans. My guess is that TechDirt will lose a case in court for the wrong reasons.

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